Our NSS Misconceptions Evaluated

As we stated, this year’s National Stationery Show was as different as night and day compared to last year’s show. The experience from doing it once gave us such a better understanding of how things worked. We’d like to share our top two misconceptions about The National Stationery Show with you. We hope sharing our experience and how we improved things year two will help anyone who is considering exhibiting in the future.

MISCONCEPTION #1: Buyers walking by will stop to browse, take the time to read all your cards, and then place orders.

The biggest misconception of The National Stationery Show for us was that buyers come to the show to browse and discover new companies. In our opinion, that is just not true. The Jacob K. Javits Center is enormous and no one walks in and thinks, “Ahh…I can’t wait to read every card in every booth.” It’s not happening. If you are a stationery lover, you walk in and first think, “I’ve died and gone to heaven.” Then, after one or two aisles, you begin to get overwhelmed and most booths begin to blur together. Even if each single booth has beautiful, funny and unique cards (which is 95% the case), how can one person take it all in?

ACTUALITY #1: If buyers know about you ahead of time and are interested, they will stop to take a closer look.

Here’s the truth: exhibiting at The National Stationery Show does show buyers you are the real deal and if you get their attention beforehand they will take interest. For NSS 2014, we mailed out 8 pre-show mailers. Eight! What were we thinking?!? Well, I’ll tell you. We wanted to really keep it personal so, instead of mailing directly to the stores, we contacted our customers and asked them to drop off a card at their favorite shops. Not a bad idea in theory, but in reality the odds of someone (a) doing this to begin with and then (b) that store actually planning on going to the show was not working in our favor. A couple weeks before the show I chose my top stores and dropped off a personal note myself. Truth be told – of the 8, we did get two orders; they just didn’t happen until months after the show.

Last year's mailers.

This year we mailed out 170 pre-show mailers. The best part of the process was we spent weeks researching stores and in turn discovered close to 200 fun, unique, and interesting stores across The United States. Identifying these stores as potential retailers for our cards was the win! Because of those mailers, before the show even started we received our first order via email.

This year's mailers.

The other small tweak associated with getting buyers’ attention that we think was extremely beneficial was enlarging 4 of our most popular cards. (We had this done at Print Icon – we highly recommend their work!) If someone doesn’t know beforehand to stop at your booth, it’s not very likely they will stop. Last year we felt like people didn’t even give us the chance to know if they liked or didn’t like us because they weren’t stopping to read our cards. This year, because we enlarged our normal 5’’x 7’’ card to a 15’’x 21’’ card, people walking by could quickly glance and know if they liked us.

This might sound like a simple statement, but the people who actually came into our booth were the ones with real interest...the ones who placed orders. The people who walked by probably wouldn’t place an order anyway, so we didn’t mind if they didn’t stop. People tell you to try to disconnect from your product and not take things personally at the show. This is incredibly difficult. Enlarging our cards was our way of getting our aesthetic across to those passing by so we didn’t have to feel badly if they didn’t stop.

We also made a couple other minor adjustments to our booth that we think made a big impact. This year we made each row of cards one color instead of choosing the card stock color based on the photo itself. We also ditched the darker furniture for a white toy chest, some plexi-stands, and our favorite yellow chair. Overall, the booth was brighter and more appealing from far away.

MISCONCEPTION #2: In order for the show to be successful we had to collect enough orders at the show to make our money back and turn a profit.

Our second misconception was that the number of orders we received at the show would be our barometer of success. When you put so much of your money into something it’s difficult not to be focused on making that money back and then turning a profit. Last year when the show finished we hadn’t come close to even making our money back. That’s a hard fact. After the show we followed up, continued getting several orders – including our largest store yet, Paper Presentation, and not only made our money back, but turned a profit. Not a huge profit, but still a profit. However, because we were so focused on the number of orders we received at the show, I still felt like a failure. It wasn’t until Katie Hunt from Trade Show Boot Camp and her wonderful panel of speakers said it directly to me that it clicked. “You cannot base your success of The National Stationery Show on your orders.” My friends and family had said similar things plenty of times before, but it took hearing it from other stationers who had exhibited at the show for it to really mean something. Thank you, Katie!

ACTUALITY #2: Exhibiting at The National Stationery Show is the success.

You’ve now brought your company to the next level, you will make connections with retailers, licensing companies, manufacturers, fellow stationers, and some really nice people. We went into this year not worrying about orders. It took many pep talks and a lot of re-shifting of our thought process to get here, but when we showed up at the Javits Center to build our booth we were not nervous, we were just excited. From day one we felt so much better…so much more confident. We had made it to the finish line of this leg of the race. It was time to enjoy it and be proud of all we had accomplished.

We need to mention that we did get orders – and, as my husband pointed out, you don’t worry about not having something when you already have it. But we do feel like the orders were icing on the cake -- icing that’s necessary for our company to thrive but, by not thinking about the orders, we really had a wonderful time.

Instead of focusing on orders, we focused on the people we could meet. The National Stationery Show is basically a big gathering of “our people” -- paper lovers, scrapbookers, and design enthusiasts. This year, especially with the release of our new Inkable Envelope Stamps, we did research ahead of time. We reached out to some of the bloggers we thought might be at the show. We looked at the show as an opportunity to meet individuals who we have admired for some time. It was nice to be able to congratulate them on the success they have created for themselves in their careers and thank them for sharing it with the world. 

The talented Amy Tan & her adorable son Jack.  They couldn't have been nicer!  We've been following Amy's scrapbooking for a while now.  We love these Amy Tangerine alpha stickers that she designed!  Her blog has been really helpful to us and we've learned a lot from her December Daily video.  Also, how cute are these baby onesies?

Kelly Purkey was as lovely in person as she seems online.  Her products are modern and fun.  We love this stamp set.  It's sold out in her shop, but we found it available here. We plan to use it in our summer mini album.  In the meantime, we just ordered this stamp set, which you can watch her use in this video!

While I was showing Sarah our Inkable Envleope Stamps, she mentioned she knew about clear stamps so I asked her if she scrapbooked.  Then I saw her badge! Studio Calico is our favorite scrapbook subscription plan! They recently teamed up with A Beautiful Mess and are producing the Messy Box!!  I felt so honored to meet such talented successful women including fellow Studio Calico team members Rachel & Cathy.

This being our second year, we also knew so many more people. Last year was like freshman year of high school. We didn’t know anyone and everything made us nervous. This year was our sophomore year and it was like coming back from summer vacation. We were excited to catch up with our booth mates from last year. Plus, over the course of the year we had met several people online that we were looking forward to meeting in person.

We met Melinda at NSS last year through a friend of a friend.  She was also exhibiting.  Her stationery and print line "Read Between The Lines" is wonderful.  (This is my favorite!  This is Chad's favorite.) This year she was walking the show for her new brick & mortar flagship store!  It was great to catch up, plus she placed an order!

I met Cyndie on Instagram.  She's an incredibly motivating business coach.  It was great to meet her in person at the show.  Megan is her friend and I found out later that she has a fabulous jewelry line & was on Elise Get's Crafty discussing Pintrest! It's a great interview! 

If you are considering doing the show, we hope our experience from year one to year two is helpful. Someone once told us you had to exhibit at a Trade Show for at least 4 years before you really started turning a profit. While we don’t know if that is exactly true, we do see their point. Year two was much better than year one and a large part of that is simply because it was year two. We learned, we grew, and people remembered us. We can’t wait to see what will be in store year three!!



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